Globalism and the Microcosm of an Airplane

It’s not so often that I find travel authors penning a piece for Opinion section of newspapers, and yet, there was Pico Iyer’s name on an article in the LA Times Opinion section titled Globalism at 35,000 feet.

Pico takes a stab at one of life’s greatest mysteries: why would anyone pay $1,500 an hour to sit in a comfortable seat and be fed average food. And yet, this is what is done by those flying in First Class. Pico attacks this bizarre mindset of how all laws of common sense are suddenly tossed out the window when one takes to the air. The prices charged to separate from the masses are ridiculous and would never be considered when one’s feet are firmly planted on the ground. Or would they?

What happens in the air, is also what happens on the ground, Pico points out. An airplane is simply a microcosm of life with the middle class riding in Business and the Upper Class riding in First. That leaves the rest of us stuck in Coach. In fact, Pico likens First Class to a gated community “in which people from other classes are not even allowed to visit their restrooms.” Coach is the slums and shantytowns of the airplane where the huddled masses (and huddled they are) mire in their cramped surroundings and bad food (if they get any at all).

He takes the analogy a step further by pointing out that national carriers from the countries on this planet with the highest quality of life standards (Singapore, Australia, New Zealand), treat their Coach customers with far better service and amenities, thereby narrowing the divide between the classes and injecting some civility and self-respect back into the trodden masses.

Pico’s article is short, but he nails a wonderful idea here that can be carried on much further. The fresh baked cookies a friend in First Class walked back to me in Coach one time, is nothing more than a G8 Nation shipping aid to a third world country–in this case, me!